|Charmed by Pearly Chua's
by Ravi Namblar
(From The News Straits Times, 19/3/99)
Playwright Stella Kon's one-woman play Emily of Emerald Hill has been staged over 60 times in Malaysia, Singapore and abroad but it still continues to tug at the heart-strings of audiences.
There was a sold-out crowd at the Dewan Johor in Crowne Plaza Johor Baru last Sunday when Pearlly Chua took to the stage with a performance to remember.
It was a rare treat indeed for Johor Baru residents, who were completely charmed and enthralled by Chua's inimitable portrayal of Emily in the classic Nyonya play.
Kudos indeed to Crowne Plaza Johor Baru for making it all possible. Indeed, it is the only private establishment in the city which continues to keep the arts scene alive by bringing in both foreign and locals acts.
But Emily of Emerald Hill was certainly in a class of its own and was truly a joy to watch. The play conjures up the hey-days of the Baba nyonya or Straits Settlement community.
It tells the delicious tale of a 14 year-old orphan bride who clawed her way to become the matriarch who rules an empty household.
Chua's rendition of Emily was enduring, to say the least. She played the role so well that audiences felt an uncanny affinity with her, especially the way she delivered her lines, mannerisms and body language.
The audiences were especially moved by the scene at the end of Act 1, which dwelled on the death of Emily's eldest son, Richard. The tears rolling down her cheeks were real and the emotions she portrayed were genuine. It was all so very touching and moving.
Chua's narration of how Emily is bullied by her sisters-in-law, how she wins back her husband from his mistresses, how her children all want to escape from her and why her husband refuses to see her when he is dying also left an indelible impression on the audiences.
Eventually, only loneliness and emptiness fill her and she is left sitting alone. She finally gives in and wishes to go to sleep.
Emily of Emerald Hill was a real gem of a play. And thanks Crowne Plaza for giving art lovers and theatre-goers in Johor Baru this rare treat.
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